Trading for Kris Bryant: A winning move the Mets must make

With the arrival of February, the unmistakable feel of baseball surrounds us. Hey, at least the “Disastros” kept us all talking baseball through the winter along with a pretty energetic Hot Stove season, which was thankfully dominated by a lot of free agent moves and trades. Brodie Van Wagenen certainly had the Mets involved in what looks like interesting moves that follow a very Mets-like approach: banking on projects with potential upside.

Scanning over a host of projections for NL East standings, the majority have the Mets sitting in third place, with a couple putting them in first place. Regardless of the projection, most people see the East being an entertaining mix of four teams, all separated by 5-7 wins when the leaves start to change color. What seems to be capturing the attention amongst the competition for the Eastern Division crown is third base.

The projected top three teams will all see big time changes at third in 2020. For both the reigning World Series Champion Nationals and Division Champion Braves, one could easily argue they lost one of their best position players in Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson. Todd Frazier was a welcomed site in Queens as a local guy, but his departure will not be a crush to the team and ostensibly opened up a position to help ease the player log jam. With the news of Kris Bryant predictably losing his service-time grievance case, now is the time to trade for him and make a serious move to winning the East. A player like Bryant is a total difference maker and trading for him is exactly the kind of move winners make.

Adding the extra year before free agency adds a lot to Bryant’s value. So does the fact that Bryant will play the next two years in his absolute prime at ages 28 and 29 along with making a bid for a killer free agent contract. Trading for him will hurt, as it should. This is not trading our best prospects for an on-a-steep-decline Cano and a reliever, but more akin to the move to get Cespedes for whom we traded Michael Fulmer. That was a winner move in 2015, and so will this. Another rather significant corollary would be taking Bryant away from both the Nationals – who look to be promoting Carter Kieboom from the minors, and the Braves – who appear to have Johan Camargo slotting back in. I expect both teams to be looking at Bryant seriously.

For the metrics-first thinkers, Bryant owns a career on-base at 38.5% with a low standard deviation, meaning he does this year-in year-out, and provides the type of consistent production this team needs. At the same time, his career OPS and OPS+ is .900 and 136, respectively. Put 30 dingers in the bank too. Bryant will slot in at third base, where his defense is passable, and play there most games. The best thing about Bryant’s profile is that he can cover first and a little outfield, although that would hardly be necessary. Would anyone like seeing Alonso and Bryant in the middle of the line-up?

What such a trade would mean for the Mets is another re-think about the infield. No matter how happy we will all be to have Jeff McNeil playing every day, he really belongs at second base, which introduces the problem of dealing with Robinson Cano. It is time for the front office to recognize that Cano is not an every-day player and really is moving into the “veteran bench guy” aspect of his career. The team cannot win the division or even hope to play in October with an anchor like Cano in the line-up and getting 600 AB in the season. That said, we can already predict injury is coming, so the team needs a legitimate big-leaguer at second on a regular basis. That person is not Jed Lowrie or Luis Guillorme. So let’s move McNeil to second base pretty much daily, let Cano get a two or three games per week in there and roll McNeil to third or outfield, or let him stay healthy and come off the bench. McNeil needs to get 500 AB, and that’s doable as playing second coupled with utility work.

Who will it cost to get Bryant in a trade? Well, you can put Mauricio on the list for sure. It’s possible that Brandon Nimmo might be wanted. Depending how deep the Cubs rebuild really is, maybe it’s Brett Baty or Mark Vientos or Matthew Allen. The Cubs want to shed some salary, so there is a limit to who the Mets should give up, given the $18.6M salary Bryant brings in, unless the Cubs eat a fair bit of that. Regardless of the arrangement, any of the controllable players the Cubs may want is worth the deal. Trading for Bryant immediately puts the Mets in the driver’s seat for the NL East for this year and next. It is time to see if “win now” is just words or really held as a prime objective.

17 comments for “Trading for Kris Bryant: A winning move the Mets must make

  1. February 3, 2020 at 9:42 am

    Hey Chris,

    I appreciate that Bryant is a huge upgrade to the team but I do not think that this trade is a good one.

    The Mets give up their starting centerfielder with no plan for replacement and prospects. On top of this I’m pretty sure it pushes them into the luxury tax area.

    I would argue against this trade on every front.

    • Ike Rauth
      February 4, 2020 at 12:00 am

      He’s been playing in the outfield so put him in right and Michael and center for now with Marisnick to help think about the team that leaves us with

  2. February 3, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    The only Cub I want is Theo Epstein. The man who played a key part in ending long droughts in Boston and Chicago pulls a trifecta with the star-crossed Mets.

  3. Boomboom
    February 3, 2020 at 12:14 pm

    I would trade JD Davis, one of Mauricio or Giminez (cubs can choose) and one of Allen or Wolf for Bryant. Fair value. Cubs replace Bryant s bat and defensive versatility (although downgrade quality) and get two prospects with upside in or around the top 100.

    Nimmo/JM (c.f.)
    McNeil (lf)
    Bryant (3b)
    Alonso (1b)
    Conforto (rf)
    Ramos (c)
    Cano (2b)
    Rosario (ss)

    Bench: Dom, Rivera, lowrie, cespedes, Luis g.

    Improved offense and defense. And next off-season sign Mookie #2.

    • Ike Rauth
      February 4, 2020 at 12:12 am

      What if we made the trade and gave up Nimmo how about this for a lineup 1-McNeil
      2-Rosario
      3-Confoto
      4-Alonzo
      5-Bryant
      6-Cespedes/JD
      7-Cano
      8-Ramos
      Pete protects Michael who now sees tons of fastballs, Kris protects Pete, and Yo protects Kris think this lineup could do some damage

  4. Herb G
    February 3, 2020 at 12:46 pm

    I don’t get all this craziness to get a third baseman. We have an outstanding 3B in McNeil, and replacing him would move him to LF, where he is much less effective. Moreover, if Cespedes is healthy, which by all appearances he is, one of the two winds up on the bench. And then, there’s the cost, both in salary and players/prospects. I would not want to give up Nimmo without a better replacement CF, and high prospects to boot. No thanks.

    • Chris F
      February 3, 2020 at 3:39 pm

      McNeil has played 35 games as a big leaguer at 3B. That is a long way from saying he is an outstanding third baseman. Furthermore his fielding percentage (admittedly small numbers are involved) dropped from .990 at 2B to .960 at 3B. McNeil is easily an every day MLB second baseman, which is where he should play.

      • Peter
        February 3, 2020 at 6:40 pm

        An infield as good as any offensive infield:

        1B Alonso
        2B McNeil
        3B Bryant
        SS Rosario

        I agree—McNeil is not a natural LF.

        The trade may be too costly but I imagine this infield…

  5. Rich Hausig
    February 3, 2020 at 10:28 pm

    Always been a Bryant fan. But his late inning numbers have not always been great , he was better last year. I think its important to remember hes a Boras guy so you are getting 2 years here and he will go to free agency.

    For me the price in prospects and salary is just too much. Good teams dont make trades like this especially after the Diaz/Cano trade. The Mets did a nice job in last years draft reloading the farm and that’s the key. Baty could well be ready in two years to fill that spot which is already in good hands with McNeil. Do we want Bryant in place of Nimmo minus the other prospects for two years or do we go with what we have, which is pretty darn good?

    I say get the bullpen fixed and we are a playoff team. Bryant dosen’t get you there if the pen is doesn’t preform better.

    I also have a question. 2020 post season, 9th inning, tie game, RISP. Do you want Bryant up there or Nimmo? I’ll take Nimmo in that spot.

    • Chris F
      February 4, 2020 at 2:48 pm

      Bryant has a World Series ring, McNeil does not.

  6. TexasGusCC
    February 3, 2020 at 11:38 pm

    Wow Chris. As I was reading the headline, my reaction was “yeah”! But, then I remembered that pitching wins and when I read your point about Cano, I said “deal breaker”. There is no way the COO or GM will allow that to happen. Every other article written about Cano emphasizes his stats for August and September – 93 PA .338/.409/.600/1.009 – and that he hit .272/.318/.481/.799 against righties all year. They aren’t pushing this point by accident.

    It appears that Cano will play against all righties and some lefties, and while we all would want Bryant, I’m not sure that trade improves the Mets like a trade for a stud starter does, that costs the same in prospects.

  7. Ike Rauth
    February 3, 2020 at 11:58 pm

    Nimmo,Baty,Geminez and Peterson sounds about right and take on all of his salary since they could use that as a bargaining point

  8. TJ
    February 4, 2020 at 7:14 am

    The value of every potential acquisition is based on cost. Cost now and going forward. I love McNeil Nd believe he can settle in at 3b, but we’ll have to see it happen. Today, the only type of player I’d deal multiple prospects for is a dominant and controllable SP, but those aren’t available. The trade deadline makes more sense, as we can better see how this “go for it” season is sizing up. Hold all these assets right now, and look to tidy up the fringes with a couple of low risk high return guys.

    • Chris F
      February 4, 2020 at 9:25 am

      “Wait to see it happen” does not feel like “win now”, where every single win in a tight division matters.

      Surrendering Cano to full time 2B is already giving up because of what his diminished play forfeits on both sides of the ball. Running an experiment at 3B and a failure at 2B hardly equates to going for it.

      • TJ
        February 4, 2020 at 10:36 am

        Chris,
        Can’t say I agree at all that “wait and see what happens” and “win now” are contradictory. Plenty of teams better positioned as “win now” are going to “wait and see what happens” before spending assets to improve the current 26-man roster. Surely, Mookie Betts could improve the Yankee CF spot, as Kris Bryant could improve their 3B spot, but will they be aggressive now to make that happen. It’s doubtful and likely wise.

        Slotting McNeil as the “regular” 3B does not mean he is playing every game there, nor does it mean Cano is playing every game at 2B. Also, while it is probable that Cano is in decline, it is not a given that he will be lousy. It is also not a given that the Mets will get zero from Cespedes and Lowrie. Now, expecting back of the baseball card production from these three would be dumb, it is also possible that Cespedes and Lowrie perform well in their walk years, and a Cano that bats down in the order and gets some regular rest against LHP can be productive.

        So, with most seeing the Mets as the 3/4 in a 4 team race, why not focus on the depth, which could help offset some of the deficits compared to divisional rivals. I’d just prefer that approach as opposed to parting with Baty, Allan, etc. at this stage. Striking at the deadline to crate separation just makes more sense to me.

  9. February 4, 2020 at 11:41 am

    Once again, the Cano deal is biting us in the butt. I don’t see any way this works with the organization’s insistence on playing Cano on an everyday basis.

    That said, I’m not sure I agree with you that this move puts the Mets in the driver’s seat. Bryant bounced back from his injury-plagued 2018 but not all the way back to his 2015-17 form. In that 3-year span, Bryant averaged 6.9 fWAR per season. Last year it was 4.8 – a strong total for sure yet still shy of what he put up previously.

    And for someone who values defense, it’s hard to ignore that 2019 was the third straight year that Bryant put up below-average defensive numbers. In 939.1 innings at 3B, roughly 3/4 of a full season, he had a (-7) DRS and a (-1.4) UZR.

    I like Bryant and it would be fun to have him on the Mets. But it’s hard to advocate paying sticker price on him right now. I’d rather wait to the All-Star break to make that decision.

  10. MattyMets
    February 4, 2020 at 12:31 pm

    I rank Bryant 4th among the “available” stars.
    1. Betts
    2. Arenado
    3. Lindor
    4. Bryant

    The other 3 are gold glovers and franchise cornerstones. Bryant is a very good player on par with Wright or Longoria in their prime, but I don’t see him as a super star.

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